March 22nd 2008
To begin with I did lots of reading. On the net, at the library. I was trying to get a handle on the chemical process. I also was a bit wary of using lye. In the end it turned out okay. The process deserves the respect some of my reading demanded, but I am more confident and happy with refining my recipe. The important part at the outset is to get the proportions right. This is where a lye calculator becomes invaluable. I began with cheap oils and didn't try to do fancy stuff like colour or essential oils. The photo shows my ingredients: Caustic Soda, (Sodium Hydroxide, Lye) Olive Oil Supafry (Tallow) Frymaster (palm oil) Copha (coconut oil) Milk or Water A large pot to mix in A heat proof container for the Lye mix A tray for the soap to set in Scales for measuring Safety equipment Candy thermometer
I first made my lye mix. This reaction is exothermic so it needs an appropriate container and time to cool down. The recipe I was following said it needed to get down to 35 to 50 degrees. I measured out the Lye for the quantity of oil I was using. I then gradually added the lye to the milk. I set this aside to cool, safely on the veranda to reduce the heat and get rid of the fumes. At times the mix was above 100 degrees.
Mixing and melting the oils. This is where I felt like I started to enjoy myself. I carefully got through the lye stage and it was all coming together. In the picture is me adding the olive oil to the tallow, palm and coconut oil.
Here is a picture of us close to the magic saponification. I had gradually added the lye mix to the melted oils and was waiting for the lye to starting eating the fat. It is like cooking custard, that moment at the end when it turns from a liquid to this luscious viscous mix. It took a lot of mixing for me to get to this stage. I would say it was 20 - 25 min with an electric beater. It will be different for my next batch, different temperature and batch size. But I need to be patient, to get a nice smooth end product it is good to blend it right through to when it starts to get solid. At this point I felt brave and added some whole oats, to give the soap added texture.
Once it has started to solidify I poured it into the tray.
Next comes the 2-3 weeks of curing, this is where the last of the lye gets used, leaving you with lovely pure soap. This batch is a bit crumbly, I suppose I need to beat it longer, smooth it out better.
Now the final result in use. I like the ratio of hardness to lather. It lasts well but still lathers okay, nothing luxurious. The size is good too, its nice to have a large chunk of home made soap. The crumbly bits weren't a problem. Just have to experiment with blending and temperature to get then saponification started. Or just mix for a while and then set aside. Oh well, we are happy soapers with more adventures to come.